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I couldn’t lift my baby for months because of severe vaginal tearing

Kathryn Sneed

It was around 8 p.m. on the night of my son’s birth and it was time to start pushing. I had already been in labor for 23 full hour, and that made this part one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life.

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Every time I pushed, it seemed like nothing was happening, but the nurse assured me he was coming along slowly. Finally, after I’d just kept pushing, the doctor told me that my baby was not going to fit and she was going to have to give me an episiotomy. I was upset because I had specifically put in my birth plan that I did not want one. After arguing for few minutes, I finally gave in, knowing I didn’t have much choice.

The doctor gave me a shot to numb the area and told me she would cut at the next contraction while I pushed. As soon as I pushed and she made the cut, my son literally flew out and I remember thinking, “I hope she catches him!” It shocked me how fast it all happened because they told me he would come out a little at a time. I was so relieved and so exhausted I didn’t really think it was possible that something was wrong.

As I laid there longing to hold my son, the doctor told me I needed stitches where the episiotomy was done. I had torn past what she had cut and it was going to take a lot longer to stitch everything up. My epidural was wearing off and I was so frustrated because I still had not been able to hold my baby. When she was finally done, I only got to hold him briefly and was unable to breastfeed.

After I slept off the medicine I was given, they told me he would not be allowed to sleep in my room that night because I wasn’t able to walk after getting the stitches and the medicine left me unable to enough to take care of him.

The next day, the doctor explained that I had experienced fourth degree tearing and told me what my recovery would look like. This is the worst kind of vaginal tearing from birth you can get. I was shocked — I had known it was bad, but I didn’t know it was bad. The tear had gone through all the muscles, including the vaginal tissue, perineal skin, perineal muscles that extends into the anal sphincter, and through the anal sphincter and the tissue underneath it.

Because of the severity of this tear, she gave me a long list of things I would not be allowed to do, such as walking up and down stairs except for once a day or lifting anything at all, even my own baby. She said I could have the baby brought to me, but I was not able to carry him. And lastly, she told me I would be on stool softeners for four months.

She got even more serious when she told me that if I did not listen to her and follow the rules for recovery, I could be in a much worse situation. It would be very easy for the stitches to tear and if that happened, I could end up wearing diapers for the rest of my life. If the muscle tore through the stitches, then I would not be able to control how or when I went to the bathroom. The recovery process alone would be at least three to four months and I would never have a vaginal birth again.

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Once at home, the recovery process was brutal. I was only allowed to go up the stairs to bed at night and come down in the morning. I was not allowed to lift anything and the only walking I did was to get up to go to the bathroom. I was on many medications and some very good pain killers.

One of the nurses had taught us how to make special ice packs made out of baby diapers. She put chunks of ice into the lining of the diaper and wrapped it up so the ice didn’t fall out, and it worked well to numb the area and the pain. At home, my husband had to buy huge bags of ice so that he could make me diaper ice packs around the clock.

During the day, my husband or one of the family members that was staying with us would bring me my son so I could feed and play with him. During the night, my husband and one of our moms took turns taking care of him. I couldn’t get in and out of bed very easily and had to be helped even to go to the bathroom and to get in the shower.

My husband was amazing throughout this. It was so frustrating not to be able to do anything for myself and not to be able to take care of my son more, but I was so glad to know that he had a great daddy watching out for him!

Although things were eventually getting a little better, I was still having problems. Looking back, I realized that while many women have post-partum depression, I had post-partum anxiety and it was severe. I worried constantly and at times I couldn’t eat or sleep. I wondered what I did to deserve everything that had happened. I struggled to be happy for friends who were having babies. I was jealous of the women who, only days after giving birth, were back to normal and doing their thing.

Over the years, things got better. I enjoyed being a mother to the sweetest little boy, but I wondered if I would ever give birth to another child. The trauma I had been through had torn me apart, and I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to go through it again. My counselor told me told me she believed that I had a bit of PTSD from the trauma of my son’s birth. Since then, she has done some EMDR therapy with me, and it has helped me deal with that trauma in the past.

Two years ago, I had another baby. She was born via C-section, and in comparison to my first birth, hers was the easiest thing I had ever done. Even the recovery was smoother than the first, and it gave me hope. While we are done having children, I am so happy to say that I have recovered well thanks to that doctor. Listening to her rules helped me heal well and even she said she was surprised at how well the area healed.
It’s been almost six years since the day he was born. I am doing well and coping so much better. The EMDR therapy has helped me recover from that birth, and talking about it with other moms has helped too. While I would never wish a fourth degree tear on anyone, I would go back and do it all again just to have my son.

Before you go, check out our slideshow below:

surrogate giving birth
Image: Leilani Rogers/Photos by Lei

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